Trump Doctrine Exudes Trumpism Abroad
Andrew McCarthy details how the Trump Doctrine and his promise to bring coherence to American foreign policy, like his promises to Trump University students, is just more of the same emptiness. Given his past and oft-changing positions on Libya, Iraq and Syria, Trump doesn’t know what Trump believes. Trump says he opposes Obama and Clinton foreign policy, but per usual with any issue, he has been on the other side of it. Here is Trump in 2011 on Libya:
I can’t believe what our country is doing. Qaddafi in Libya is killing thousands of people, nobody knows how bad it is, and we’re sitting around we have soldiers all [over] the Middle East, and we’re not bringing them in to stop this horrible carnage and that’s what it is, it’s a carnage. . . .
“You talk about of things that have happened in history, this could be one of the worst. Now we should go in, we should stop this guy which would be very easy and very quick. We could do it surgically, stop him from doing it, and save these lives. This is absolutely nuts. We don’t want to get involved and you’re gonna end up with something like you’ve never seen before.”
The Trump Doctrine here was exactly what Hillary advocated, and whom he praised a year after Qaddafi’s overthrow, for doing a “a good job” as Secretary of State. Indeed, President Obama followed Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump’s advice and now regrets it. He bombed Libya to get rid of its dictator, aggression that was neither authorized by Congress nor endorsed by the U.N. mandate which approved only the protection of civilians and not toppling of the regime.
Trump also blames the rise of ISIS on the 2003 invasion of Iraq which is true. Trump has portrayed himself as a dissenter from the decision to remove Saddam Hussein though he was an American enemy supporting terrorists in gross violation of U.N. resolutions. There was a better argument for his ouster than for Qaddafi which Trump vehemently supported.
In a September 2002 interview, while military action against Saddam Hussein was being debated, Trump said he not only supported the prospect of invading Iraq but “wish[ed] the first time it was done correctly” — an obvious reference to the 1991 Gulf War. That is, Trump believed the real mistake was failing to invade Iraq eleven years earlier.
This is an example of the Trump Doctrine in the flesh. Once we expelled the Iraqi army from Kuwait in 1991, President George H. W. Bush considered Trump’s recommended course but opted not to send our troops into Baghdad to remove Saddam fearing destabilizing the combustible region as Saddam’s Iraq was a counterweight to the Iranian regime.
In other words, HW Bush followed the policy Trump now claims to favor but condemned when it was actually followed. And of course, Trump only condemned it eleven years after the fact, because Saddam was still a problem . . . which Trump first thought the second President Bush should remove . . . but then condemned him for removing. Trump is gonna Trump.
“American action” in Syria, according to Trump, is the third cause for the rise of ISIS. But the action in Syria has been inaction, which Trump claims to favor except for when he doesn’t. Trump slammed Obama for his passivity after Bashar Assad, Syria’s dictator, crossed Obama’s “red line” warning him not to use chemical or biological weapons. But Trump doesn’t think Obama should have invaded Syria and ousted Assad, for his speech rejected interventions for the purpose of regime change.
Trump also doesn’t think Obama shouldn’t have drawn his red line in the first place. He claims his foreign policy would be supported by both parties, and maybe the only consensus of both parties is that the proliferation and use of weapons of mass destruction should be severely discouraged. The Trump Doctrine is as consistent as the man himself.
Foreign policy seems confusing because it’s hard. Sometimes our vital interests dictate that we must intervene; other times, it appears our intervention could be very helpful to others in distress, but there is little in it for us besides risks and costs. The result is a constant stream of excruciating choices. Sometimes what appears to be incoherence is actually learning from our mistakes, cutting our losses or reevaluating our interests as circumstances change.
Trump says whatever will get a rise out of the masses; doesn’t fret over whether it is at odds with whatever he’s previously spouted; and attacks the messenger when called on his inconsistencies. Trump has no comprehension of what caused ISIS to rise, of where it came from or of what drives it ideologically. Trump merely continues to do what populists do: He tells you the people you love to hate are incoherent and incompetent. He never mentioned that he was with them all the way, and never offers a reason to think he is any more coherent and competent.